Sunday, 9 March 2008

Drag lift tips

Following my tribute to the Poma drag lift in the last post, I am going to give some hints on using these and other drag lifts for the newer skier who may not have come across them yet. I teach many second or third week skiers who can happily get around the mountain and use the chairlifts, but look at me blankly when I suggest taking a Poma up the hill.

These lifts work by having a large button on the end of a pole which is attached to a moving cable overhead. The button is placed between the skier's legs and tows them up the mountain. Other drag lifts exist including the T-bar (where two skiers can ride together, one each side of the T) and the simple rope tow (hold the rope and let it drag you).

The big difference with any type of drag lift is that your skis (or snowboard) stay on the ground. It may seem obvious, but the lift does not support you, it tows you. Therefore you need to stand up - if you try to sit down on it you WILL fall.

Since you are skiing on these lifts, you need to point your skis straight ahead, parallel. If you point your skis to the side you will get dragged sideways, and again, you will fall. The lift won't steer your skis for you, you have to do it yourself.

To mount a Poma lift, check which side of you the button lift will be on, and put your poles in the opposite hand. Slide forward to the gate, or wand. Wait for the gate to open, or the light to go green. Slide forward through the wand and in one motion pull the button down towards you and place it between your legs. Be ready for the acceleration as the lift will move quickly once it starts.

To dismount, pull the button towards you and out from between you legs, then let it go and slide forwards. DO NOT dismount too early.

If you fall over on a drag lift, let it go and move off the track quickly. Don't try to hang on.

Moving on to the rules. There are two common rules on drag lifts, which good skiers tend to ignore as they think they know better. I have been guilty of this in the past, but in fact the rules are there for good reasons. If you understand why the rules are there, at least you can break them properly.

Rule 1 - No slalom

I.e. ski in a straight line under the cable and don't weave from side to side. The reason for this is that skiing out to the side pulls the cable out sideways, and in an extreme case it could cause the cable to derail from the pulleys. Fixing this takes a good bit of effort and the lift will be shut for an hour at least.

Rule 2 - Don't get off half way

The reason for this rule is that a button released early can wrap itself around a pylon and cause at best a lost button, at worst a derail. If you are going to hop off early, always do it after a pylon and not before. This is more of a problem with T-Bars and non-detachable button lifts which are attached to the cable with a reel of rope. As the rope reels back in, the button or T-bar can swing around a pylon quite easily.

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